A Glimmer of Hope…

My garage door broke recently. A few days ago I lifted the huge creaking door in order to walk the trash to the curb. Back in the garage I reached up to drag the door down, down, down.

And then- darkness. Complete and utter darkness.

The door to the house had slammed shut behind me.  Between me and that door was a 25 foot pitch black obstacle course of bikes and pool toys and coolers and lawn care tools. (side note – we are not a ‘tidy garage’ family 🙂  ). My eyes strained to adjust to the darkness and seek out any small liver of light.
Suddenly this garage blackout experience felt a whole lot like my life.

I remembered the moment nine years ago when my once sweet, funny, handsome husband lay on an emergency room gurney. I remember the doctor’s slow hesitant words, ‘We did everything we could, Mrs. Hiles’. I remember the darkness that seemed to swallow me. A darkness so encompassing that I felt like I could barely breathe. I remember looking for the light, some light, any light to bring hope to this impossible reality.
Walking back into my home from the hospital nine years ago, little glimmers of light began to flicker in the darkness. Military paperwork that magically got sorted out by the right person at the right time. The wag of our dog’s tail. Kisses from my girls. Phone calls and love and hugs at just the right time. Chicken enchiladas delivered on a particularly difficult day – Dave’s favorite dish. Opening my Bible to a verse that shouted peace and provision and hope for the future. Glimmers of hope that God was still there and a new normal was maybe somehow possible.

Back to the present, standing in my dark garage. I was reminded of the same journey I walked through darkness nine years ago. Now, as then, I needed to do two things:

Go toward the light.  The only way to get of the dark garage was to walk toward the glimmer of light. There have to be things that continue to shine hope and peace into our days. Things that show us God’s faithfulness and remind us of His truth. Sometimes we just have to look for them. Seek Him through His word daily. Look for things that you can choose to be thankful for, even something as simple as an early morning cup of coffee or air conditioning that works! Our praise brings His presence.
• Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatsoever things are true and lovely and of good report , think on these things Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
• Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Bring us news in the morning, Lord of your faithfulness. Psalm 143:8 (NIV)

Remember what you know. Just as I had to carefully navigate a cluttered garage by trying to remember where things were located, we need to remember what we know. Even in the face of the impossible, God’s truth is still God’s truth. It all really comes back to that children’s prayer most of learned as a kid: ‘God is great, God is good’. Do we really believe that? I know, I know, sometimes it is so hard!  Me, too.  I strongly urge you to start keeping a journal, and if you have one, go back and read of His faithfulness.
• The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 (NIV)
• You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head from despair. Psalm 3:3 (NIV)
And finally…
• GOD, you are bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live,
my rescuing knight. My God—the high crag where I run for dear life,
hiding behind the boulders, safe in the granite hideout.
I sing to GOD, the Praise-Lofty, and find myself safe and saved. Psalm 18:2-3 (Message)

God as our rescuing knight, guarding our castles? I love that imagery!

Wherever you are in your journey, whether stumbling through smothering darkness or hesitantly walking in glimmers of light, know that He is with you….and that your sister’s all over the world are shoulder to shoulder beside you as well. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s probably a good idea to get out there and clean out that garage!

Pressed

By Julie Reed

“You need to persevere (press on) so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

Hebrews 10:36

 

I’m wondering if you are feeling some pressure on you today.  It seems that I’m getting pressed on from all sides.  I have the pressure of getting my children ready for school and making sure that lunches are packed, uniforms are ready, schedules are kept and more.  I have the pressure of being sure they arrive on time and picked up on time.  Don’t even mention the fact that my baby is starting kindergarten and keeps asking me if daddy can see her new school from heaven.

Then there is the added pressure of work.  Being an administrator of a preschool means I’m putting in extra hours to make sure the school is in tip top shape and the staff is ready for a new batch of students.  I have the pressure of feeling like an awful parent for working so much and wasting those precious last days of summer working instead of being with my kids.

Add in some emotional pressure as the 2 year anniversary of daddy and grandpa’s accident approaches and then toss in some pressure from church.  Band practice.  Grief Share leader.  Single mom’s study leader. (That’s a good kind of pressure though, right?)

Then I remembered that it was my week for an article.  Yikes!

I wanted to find a safe place to cower and have a good cry, but instead, I picked up a devotional book that was given to me by a dear friend shortly after my husband’s passing.  I didn’t read it for a long time…didn’t think it could help me much, but it has grown to be one of my favorite books and seems to always have an “answer” for me when I’m struggling.

Today’s text offered just that.  It talked about pressures.  It talked about stresses and darkness.  It talked about feeling suffocated and helpless.  If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought the author was writing about me.

The devotion ended with this poem. I just had to share it with you.

PRESSED

Pressed beyond measure; yes, pressed to great length;

Pressed so intensely; beyond my own strength;

Pressed in my body and pressed in my soul,

Pressed in my mind till the dark surges roll.

Pressure from foes and pressure from dear friends.

Pressure upon pressure, till life nearly ends.

 

Pressed into knowing no helper but God;

Pressed into loving His staff and His rod.

Pressed into liberty where nothing clings;

Pressed into faith for impossible things.

Pressed into living a life for the Lord,

Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured.

A.B. Simpson

 

This week I hope that no matter what “pressure” you may be feeling yourself that you’ll be “pressed” into Jesus. Nice and warm…arms really tight around you so that you can be certain that pressure is helping you become all He wants you to be for Him.  I’m feeling lighter already, how about you?

 

Every Star

By Julie Reed

“He determines the number of stars and calls them each by name.  Great is the Lord and mighty in power, his understanding has no limit.” Psalm 147:4-5

 

We just returned from a fabulous summer vacation visiting family in North Carolina.  We spent two weeks rafting, taking evening walks, gobbling up the fresh blackberries off the trail, and watching for fireflies in the woods.

We’d enjoy our dinners out on the porch listening to the waterfall and comical family chats and stories while hummingbirds buzzed past our heads.  Amongst all the jammed packed adventure and family fun, I needed some quiet time for myself.  I knew that I needed some time alone to renew my mind and spirit.  My parents graciously agreed to watch the kids for a bit so that I could re-charge.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend every moment I could with my family, but the daily duties of being a single mom wear on me, if I’m honest.  Sometimes I feel like running away or shipping the kids off to my parents for a few weeks just so I can breathe.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my kids.  I’m honored to be there mom.  It’s just that occasionally I get in a pile of pity and wallow around with my giant “W” on my chest for widow.  I figure this isn’t what I signed up for when I took my vows.  It shouldn’t have to be this way.

So, I slipped away one evening out to the deck for some peace and quiet.  All that could be heard were the katydids humming a joyful tune in the darkness.  I sat on the deck with tears falling down my face and wondering how Satan could have such a stronghold on me still.  How could he subtly creep in and rob me of the joy and happiness I should be feeling?

I began to pray.  Asking God to help me let go.  To help me live in the here and now.  To give me some peace, some comfort, some sign that He hears me.  That He cares about me still.  That He hadn’t forgotten about this sad, lonely widow.

I sat in silence for a few minutes.  The katydids didn’t even make a peep.  They were probably terrified that I was about to feel the wrath of God for being so bold to ask Him such things.  A gentle breeze blew across my face.  I opened my eyes and looked up at the heavens.  The sky was pitch black and the stars twinkled so brightly and clearly.  It felt as though I could reach up and pluck them from the sky.  A smile crossed my face and the words to one of my favorite songs came to mind.

He numbers each and every star and calls them all by name.

He counts them one by one to see that they are still in place.

If He cares for every star, then He sees right where you are.

You can trust you’ll never fall from His embrace.

So what can separate you from the precious love of God?

Who could every come against His strong and perfect love?

So when you’re in the valley and your nights are cold and lonely.

The darkest hour is just before the dawn.

Remember nothing can separate you from God’s love.

 

Every star…every star.  Scientists estimate that there are 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way and millions upon millions in other galaxies.  But I still matter more to Him.  He loves me right where I am.  Valley or mountain top, He loves me the same.

Nothing can separate me from His love.  Not death.  Not sadness.  Not fear.  Not loneliness.  Not the stresses of motherhood.  Nothing can keep Him from loving me.

How about you, sweet sisters?  Do you struggle with believing you matter?  That he hears and sees you?

Will you join me this week in the backyard hammock staring at the evening sky and thanking Him for seeing right where we are?  I’ll say a prayer for you for every star I see.  Will you do the same for me?

Never Enough

By Julie Reed

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:18:20

I’ve been struggling for a few days trying to decide what to write about this week and then it hit me square in the face.  I’ve been butting heads with my fourteen year old son all week long.  We ended up having a “ramming” session as I like to refer to it, with both of us locking “horns” refusing to give in and be defeated.

Anger, attitudes and words flew through the air from both us like sharp, double-edged daggers.  I’m sure that you may have experienced one of those moments when you wish what poured out of your mouth could be pushed right back in.  I call them the toothpaste tube moments.  Just like squeezed out toothpaste….once it’s out there…you can’t put it back in, no matter how hard you try.

Our disagreement really wasn’t one worth the raised voices and harsh words, but as I slammed the door and stated, “It’s just never enough.  I can never do enough for you, can I?” the words pierced my heart with a fire and pain that was real and I know they punctured my son’s heart too.

I went to my bedroom and burst out in tears.  I felt defeated.  I felt like the worst mom in the whole world.  I felt useless that I couldn’t be all that my son wanted or needed me to be.  I felt mad that I wasn’t living up to the expectations that my son wanted me to be or what I had built up in my mind that he wanted from me.  I felt horrible for not controlling my anger and for lashing out in my own sadness and grief.

So, I sat there crying on the bed.  Repeating the words over and over again in my head.  “Never enough, never enough.”  When is it ever going to be enough?  When will I be enough?  When will he have enough?  How do we get to the point when it’s all enough?  I struggle with those questions more than I should.  In a world where people are always racing for more, wanting more, needing more, its difficult at least to say “I have enough” and truly mean it.

I grabbed my Bible and asked God to give me a verse, show me something that would tell me I’d have “enough” or I’d be “enough”.  I’m not one to necessarily believe that you just pop your Bible open, drag your finger along, and voila, there’s the verse for me, but that’s what I did and this is what I found.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:18-20.  Ah, sweet peace came over my heart and mind.  God will meet all my needs.  God will meet all my son’s needs.  God will meet our family’s needs—all according to His riches.  It may not be what we think or feel we need in the moment, but He meets our needs.

There is no way that I’ll ever be enough in my own strength.  I can’t be both a mother and a father to my son, no matter how hard I try.  I can’t be the one to hold his hand through every situation that comes his way.  I can’t be the one that he leans on for all of his emotional struggles and pain.  But God can.

God will be enough.  God will meet his needs.  God will be the “Father” that he needs and misses.  God will be the healer of his heart and mind.  God will be enough for all his situations, trials and triumphs.    God will meet his needs with riches that far outweigh any “riches” I can give him.  When I look back through the past 22 months of our time since daddy has gone to glory, I can honestly say that God has been enough.  He’s provided for us in ways I never could have imagined.  He’s brought our small family together closer than ever.  He has renewed my faith in Him and deepened His relationship with my children.  He’s met all of our needs and more so.

I can’t imagine ever getting enough of God though.  Every day we find new ways to need Him more.

While I still struggle with trying to be the all-in-all to everybody and for everybody, it’s so comforting to know that my Heavenly Father will meet all of our needs.  I don’t have to try and be the super mom or the super friend.  Honestly, the more I try, the less of Him people see in me.  Now, this isn’t something that I don’t already “know”…but sometimes we just need to be reminded in our hearts that yes, I’ll never be enough, but God is.

I quietly went to my son’s room and gently knocked on the door.  He graciously let me in and I sat on the bed next to him.

“I’m sorry about all that.  I’m sorry for the way I spoke to you and acted.  I guess we’re both missing dad a lot this week with the holiday and all.  That’s no excuse.  Can I show you something I just found in the Bible?”

“I’m sorry too Mom.  Sure, what did you find?” was his polite reply.

I slowly read him the verse.  He smiled at me.

“Guess, God knew I’d need you, huh, Mom?”

“Guess He knew I’d need you too, son.”  I tearfully replied.

“Thanks for being someone I need.” he sweetly replied.

“We need each other and God.  Together it will be enough.” I answered. Then was the huge bear hug that we both desperately needed. J

Here’s to hoping this week that God will be “enough” for whatever situation, moment, memory or trial that comes your way.  I’m grateful this week that He is meeting my needs with riches full of His glory, hope and love.  I’m praying that He’ll be enough for you too.

The Bout with Doubt – Part Two – Recognizing Habitual Tears

By Kitty Hinkle

“Sometimes we can be tricked into mixing up cleansing tears of grief from tears of self-pity and self-doubt fed by whispered lies from the enemy.”

It’s the habit that I’m focusing on today, and what to do about a habit.  If you’re coming to us for the first time this week, begin with the part one of our posting on The Bout with Doubt- Part One:  Occasional Wallow or Habit? After reading the introduction to the series, follow through each part of the series as we walk through the steps of eliminating the habit of anxiety.

Step one: Recognizing habitual tears (Tuesday’s posting)

Step two: Observing the habit (Wednesday’s posting)

Step Three: Replacing a habit with Truth (Thursday’s posting)

Step Four: Freedom to grieve honestly (Friday’s posting)

Now for Step One:  Recognizing habitual tears

We all fall into patterns of response in our lives. A kid who goes through ridicule by the in-crowd might still grow up to be a healthy full functioning adult able to socialize and form great friendships, but when faced with a group of worldly handsome talkative individuals, he might find himself tongue-tied.  This is simply a habit rooted in a bad experience from high school.

I remember finding myself in a pattern of anxious thinking after a year-long struggle to sell my home in 2003.  I had four children at the time under the age of six. I kept my home flawlessly clean for showings—85 showings!  Can you imagine scrubbing floors and baseboards and staging the furniture perfectly 85 times? All the while with toddlers and babies crawling about my feet and preschoolers tugging at my hem. The constant cycle of adrenaline—clean the house, show the house, wait in anticipation, receive disappointing news, get the call for the next showing—left me repeating a pattern of anxious thoughts that led to a habit.  Once the house sold, the crisis was over.  I figured no more anxiety, right?  Wrong.  My mind was so used to the pattern of anxiety repeating itself that it looked for something else to put in place of the house selling anxiety.  I repeated the emotional cycle with everything from waiting for news on a medical test to waiting to hear from a friend who was deciding whether the book club I invited her to join was a good fit for her.  Because the cycle of emotions were so practiced, I found even the trivial silly things like the book club decisions brought the most ridiculous level of anxiety.  In noticing it, I identified it as a habit.

You can do the same with your tears. Just observe yourself as you cry. Notice whether the tears are cleansing you or digging you deeper into sadness. Sometimes we can be tricked into mixing up cleansing tears of grief from tears of self-pity and self-doubt fed by whispered lies from the enemy.

Only you and the Lord know if your pattern of grieving and bouts of tears have tipped beyond a healthy level, but if you find you might have developed a habit, don’t feel alone.  It’s a common experience among those who’ve been through difficult events in their lives.

Come back tomorrow when I share with you what I learned about dealing with the habit self-doubt and anxiety.

The Bout with Doubt

Part 1 of a five part series

By Kitty Hinkle

Don’t kids yourselves, ladies, we’re in a battle.  Women of Faith speaker Nicole Johnson wrote a book about fighting cancer titled Stepping into the Ring.  Her talk on the topic in front of sold out crowds reached the hearts of every woman in the audience dealing with the blows of despair in a lonely battle against breast cancer.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out here online and then ask yourself if you don’t sometimes feel the anguish of loneliness of living without your husband as a blow from the enemy in a similar way to how these ladies who fight cancer deal with fear and loss.

Early on, right after losing Tom, those overwhelming tears I might call a good wallow in tears were always acceptable.  As time passed, though, while I still have those occasional episodes of tears, I find those “cloudbursts” spreading apart in frequency.

When they do happen, I guard these tears as precious steps of release. Then I also guard myself from allowing the wrong type of tears to form an unhealthy pattern.

I want to take the time this week to talk about the how to separate when a bout of tears is God’s way of comforting you from when it’s a habitual pattern of self-doubt and pity coming from your flesh or the enemy.  My hearts desire is to help every widow or widower coming across these posts to feel encouraged to grieve freeing tears of release while also learning not to maximize self-doubt but instead, maximize only the glory of the Lord.

It’s normal and natural for us who have been through a loss to develop a habit of anxiety or tears. If you find yourself in that boat, these steps can help you to work through it.

Step one:        Recognizing habitual tears  (Tuesday’s posting)

Step two:        Observing the habit  (Wednesday’s posting)

Step Three:    Replacing a habit with Truth (Thursday’s posting)

Step Four:      Freedom to grieve honestly (Friday’s posting)

Come back and visit this site each day this week as there will be a posting to detail each of these steps.